Climbers & Wall Plants, by Philippa Bensley
In many cases climbers and wall plants are viewed as bad things, but there are definitely occasions where wall plants and climbers are to be appreciated. An ivy-colored brick wall has an air of age and tradition that is appealing. Trellises over a walkway covered in flowers or vines give an elegant air to a particular place, be it a park or a garden. And so it goes. This particular book provides tips on how one can encourage climbers and wall plants to beautify one’s surroundings and it makes for the sort of book that any gardener who is interested in such matters can read with profit. Given that climbing plants have a long history of being used in gardening, something that this book discusses in some detail, it is worthwhile and deeply interesting that this volume provides such a useful way to use these particular plants in one’s efforts at gardening. And while not everyone would enjoy a book like this one, there are a great many people who garden and who do want to have plants making a wall look better or covering a walkway or who want help and advice in how to prune and train such plants, and this book is useful in such things.
This book is a relatively short one at just a bit over 150 pages but it is on large pages and that makes the book large enough to accomplish its task. After a short introduction, the author provides an interesting introduction to climbers that discusses their history, how to speak botanically, as well as how to use and buy climbers and some information on how climbers climb, their growing conditions, and pruning and training such plants. After that the author explores various situations in which one could use climbing and wall plants, such as hot, dry, and sunny sites, shady sites, low and high walls, sheltered gardens, conservatories, as well as planting through shrubs and trees, ground cover, screens and dividers, as well as pots and containers and clay and alkaline soil. A chapter follows on color effects that one can use with such plants, including green and white, citrus shades, plum, purple, and red, as well as blue and silver. After that the author spends about 30 pages or so exploring climbing plants of various seasons, from spring to early and late summer to fall to winter. Finally, the book ends with the author’s choice of favorite climbers and wall shrubs and then an index.
What is it that makes a gardening book like this enjoyable? Well, for one the book includes history so there is more context than the usual gardening book has. For another, this book is simply gorgeous. The photographs are colorful and vivid and that attention to detail really improves the book. A great deal of the appeal of gardening books is in inspiring gardeners with the vision that their garden can look as beautiful as the images in the pages of the books that they read, and the more beautiful these images are, the more powerful the vision that one can create similar beauty in one’s own garden. In that respect, this book succeeds admirably by showing the diverse and colorful ways that climbers and wall plants can beautify one’s garden and one’s buildings and walkways, and this makes the book an immensely appealing one in encouraging more people to work with such plants in their own property. And all of this is for the best–we could all use more beauty in our homes and in our lives, even if it requires a bit of work to manage it all.